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2011 Greek Festival 

Marta Jewson on the annual Bayou St. John celebration of all things Greek

click to enlarge Photo by Terry Deroche
  • Traditional dance is one of the cultural highlights at the Greek Festival.

Vivi Demarinis-Haik has been to all 37 of Holy Trinity Cathedral's annual Greek Festivals. Born a year after her parents emigrated from Greece, it's a part of her heritage.

  "I remember selling soda at the festivals before I was old enough to dance," she says.

  Demarinis-Haik grew up in New Orleans but learned Greek as her first language. She joined the Hellenic Dancers at age 14 and became the group's director at 23. Now she enjoys teaching young Greek-Americans traditional dances from all over Greece.

  "(Hellenic Dancers) is a great way to get Greek-American kids used to (the culture)," she says.

  Her group — all between ages 14 and 26 — meets three times a week beginning in February to prepare for the festival. Members don traditional costumes and perform the classic Zorba as well as regional folk dances, this year from Crete, Ikaria, Epirus and Thrace.

  Greek dance is one of the traditional activities at the 38th annual Greek Festival. The Memorial Day weekend event draws crowds to the Hellenic Cultural Center on Bayou St. John for Greek music, dance, food, games, a market and more.

  The band Alpha Omega performs traditional Greek music on the outdoor stage overlooking the bayou and inside the Hellenic Cultural Center throughout the weekend. Festival-goers can also tour the Holy Trinity Cathedral, which this year presents a display of Greek Orthodox history and artifacts.

  The festival's children's area features an Athenian playground, moonwalk, face painting, crafts and more. There are plenty of recreational activities, with opportunities to scale a climbing wall, canoe on the bayou or enter a 5K race.

  The festival's cuisine includes souvlaki, spanakopita, rotisserie lamb, stuffed grape leaves, gyros, Greek salad, baklava, loukoumades and other Greek pastries. New this year are goat stew and goat burgers with tzatziki. A Greek grocery features a variety of cheeses, olives, breads, olive oil, seasonings, cookbooks and more. A market focusing on Greek imports offers music, art, clothing and jewelry as well as health and beauty products.

  The festival kicks off Friday evening with music, dance and both a 5K race and 1 mile run/walk. The festival concludes with Toga Sunday; admission is free for anyone wearing a toga, and there will be a toga contest.

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